New Year with Old Friends

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t like setting myself up for failure. Instead, I declutter my books.I always start off the year with high hopes of reading a bundle of books. But then the unread books waste away in piles around my house and become fire hazards that block main exits and hallways. On the first day of the new year, I return what I don’t want to read anymore, what I don’t want to finish, and what I know I will never start. I determine what’s still worth my time. Same with friends.

I’ve always said books are my best friends, which means I don’t have many. Despite my introverted nerdiness, I’ve been blessed to have good friends to keep me company during recess, lunch, and breaks throughout my academic life.

I only had one friend in grade school, and we hung out all the time. Unlike me, she was sweet and kind, and I adored her. But then she moved away. So I ate recess alone and snuck my lunch into the library where I hid behind the tall shelves until the bell rang. She’s like the beloved book that I lost.

In high school, I was fortunate to be friends with nice cool kids who knew how to party. That really helped me meet more good friends who were compassionate, confident, and crazy fun! These are the books that gave me great adventures in my teens.

In college, I found a smart, articulate, bookish group that understood my vocabulary. We met in the quadrangle when our class Teddy Bear introduced his Ateneo high school friends to us girls. Since then, we’ve hung out together as the Quad. Whether they got me or not, the Quad just accepted me and my weird ways as they opened me to different worlds, perspectives, lifestyles, and opinions. I realized how cloistered I was—that not everyone lived like I did—in his own world without a care for others.

My Quad friends had many interests and talents, and they liked to share. I looked forward to breaks so I can hear their silly stories and brotherly banter. I laughed at their witty remarks and marveled at their clever conversations. They were so nice and so real. Their accepting presence was a comfort to my agitated soul and a respite from the turbulence of my youth. My reading life also reflected my burgeoning thirst for knowledge, meaning, and connection.

I was attracted to the Quad because they were so unlike me—calm, gracious, kind, and generous. How did these normal happy people come to be? They were a beacon for my confused formative years into adulthood.

In law school, I found many authentic, smart, and funny friends. I realize now that I patterned my new friends after the Quad as I sought friends who weren’t shallow nor selfish. The Quad fine-tuned my friend radar so I could sniff out frauds and duds. I sought friends who were confident without bragging; funny without putdowns; smart but not obnoxious; deep but not boring; and genuinely friendly without ulterior motives. The Quad radar has served me very well in finding satisfying friendships.

A new year with old friends.

Ivy Digest ⦁ Ivy Lopez

Friends I’ve let go—though I tried

As each decade passed, many true and fake friends have blurred into the past. One college friend I’ve tried to reconnect with changed too much to my dislike. Or maybe she was always weirdly nasty but I was too blind in my youth to see.

Then there’s Dat One who I thought would be my best friend for life. But a multitude of little things told me she wasn’t a true friend. Letdowns are never dramatic. It’s the small acts of disregard that hurt. When I started my book review online, Dat One never subscribed to any of my social media accounts for Ivy Digest. She never showed support for any of my posts by liking them. I asked for her opinion on my first columns but she never responded. Yet I could see her busily interacting with everyone else on social media. She didn’t support me as I thought she would, the way I would have supported her.

The turning point was when Dat One flippantly asked me to do her a humongous once-in-a-lifetime favor. I found it distasteful and unnecessary. She had voluntarily gotten herself into a situation that wasn’t life or death and she wanted me to fix it at my great cost. I knew then Dat One was User Friendly. She’s friendly so she can use me. Why did I ignore so many signs through all these years? What a waste!

Though it’s hard for me, I’ve tried to go out of my shell and make mom friends for the sake of my kids. It’s hard and it takes time and a LOT of explaining about where I come from and how we live, blah blah blah. It’s exhausting! Then one of us moves away and loses touch, so that’s Me Time I can never get back.

I’ve also tried to befriend neighbors so my kids have a trusted emergency contact, kinda User Friendly but mutually necessary. But instant alliances have not stood the test of time. Without the chance to get to know people slowly over time, I wasn’t able to quickly see the cracks in their character. Circumstances always reveal who we really are, and simple events showed me some of my neighbors’ true quirks that made me question their trustworthiness and my hastiness to trust. These are the hyped books that don’t live up to their boosted reputation.

Surprise found friends

Like books I forgot I had, I’ve discovered a friend from the past who became a good friend. A few years back, I got into contact with Ideal Mom, whom I’ve always admired from high school. She lives a few kilometers from me and and she’s amazingly aspirational: she’s an engineer who works for a global chip maker in Silicon Valley with two sweet stable kids and a fun and loving husband. She’s kind, generous, clever, and a great cook! She’s a devout Catholic, volunteers at school and church, has a thriving social life, and takes care of two dogs! I don’t know how she does even two things in her life and the thought tires me, but she is such an exceptional person and a faithful friend. I’m so glad I met her at this point in my life when I’m too tired to make new friends.

I also found sweet friends that I hardly see. They’re highly educated devoted moms that I clicked with. One even opened a Twitter and IG account just to follow and support me! How sweet is that? When we make an effort to see each other, it’s always a great conversation and deep connection. These surprise seldom seen friends give me hope on the goodness of humanity and the bountiful grace we’re given.

The Gold Standard—Ivy’s college barkada has remained actively involved in each other’s lives and families since they first met in the Ateneo Quad.

Friends of Old are Gold

It’s easy to stay close when school confines you together for four years. But once we start work and have families, it becomes harder to stay close. Moving far away makes it almost impossible, especially for me who doesn’t really make an effort to connect long distance.

But the Quad maintained ties on apps, sharing updates and wisecracks just like when we sat around in the Quad. They don’t know it, but seeing their posts is a highlight of my tired tedious day. It instantly brings me back to the carefree Quad days in college.

As I cull pointless friendships at the end of the year, I am left with the long lasting ones. So now I’m left with my old favorites. As me and my Quad friends turn decades older, birthday wishes are called for and I remember the striking memories they gave me. Friends who showed me kindness for no reason. Friends who forgave my harsh immaturity. Friends who helped me even when I didn’t ask them to. Friends who touched my heart with their loyalty and support. Friends who gave endlessly and thanklessly. Friends who are still there.

Friendship is the most tenuous and fictional of all relationships. There is no legal contract like marriage that binds you forever. No parental obligation to a child. No filial responsibility to a parent, nor dutiful family ties. There is nothing to hold one another to commit to each other.

Friendship is merely a mutual agreement to care for another, no matter what. How pure is that? It’s the most selfless relationship. Either party in a friendship can cut ties at any point without guilt or repercussion. A friend’s commitment is a gift. That’s why, I cherish my beloved old friends with each new year. I am grateful for all of you!